'Very proud' Rory McIlroy wins $15m FedEx Cup after victory at the Tour Championship
Rory McIlroy has won the $15m FedEx Cup for the second time after a nerve-jangling victory at the Tour Championship.
The Holywood golfer carded a four under par final round 66 to win by four shots from Xander Schauffele while round three leader Brooks Koepka stumbled to a two over par 72 to finish five shots behind alongside Justin Thomas.
The victory rounds off a remarkable season as McIlroy won three titles, the Tour Championship adding to The Players Championship and the Canadian Open successes. He also finished in the top 10 in 14 of the 17 PGA Tour events he played, that infamous missed cut at The Open a blip in an otherwise phenomenal campaign.
"It was pretty cool," he said after rounding off the win at East Lake, where one year ago he had carded a four over par final round to finish six shots behind playing partner and winner Tiger Woods.
"I didn't enjoy that walk (down the 18th) last year, I played terribly and never took the fight to Tiger. Going up against the world number one in the world today, I wanted to get some revenge as Brooks got one over me in Memphis (at the WGC when McIlroy finished five behind Koepka after the pair played together in the last group). To win the FedEx Cup is awesome. It's amazing how different things can be in a year.
"My goal today was to shoot the lowest score of the week and with that birdie on the last, I did that. It looked like it was a three horse race and then in the middle of the back nine, I was able to separate myself. I made a huge par save on 16 and was able to birdie the last two. It's such a cool way to end what has been a great season, I'll look back on that and then try and improve for next year.
"I've given myself so many chances this season. To win three times is awesome. I feel like I could have won more but to win the FedEx Cup, I'm very proud of myself and I'm going to enjoy this one. I'm pretty tired but I'll enjoy a few drinks tonight."
McIlroy had started the week -5, five shots behind then FedEx Cup leader Justin Thomas due to the controversial handicapping system. Koepka, as third in the rankings, had started the week two shots ahead of McIlroy at seven under par while Schauffele began at -4.
McIlroy started the final round one shot behind Koepka but the momentum moved in Rory's direction with a three-shot swing at the par four seventh. Rory made his second consecutive birdie, holing out from over 20 feet, while Koepka lost his wayward drive and ended up with double bogey. That gave McIlroy a two shot lead over Koepka, one over Schauffele on -16.
The next big swing arrived on the 12th and 13th as McIlroy made back-to-back birdies, the first after an approach to three feet.
Koepka, on the other hand, dropped consecutive shots via two uncharacteristic short missed putts.
That opened up a FIVE shot gap between the final pairing, with Schauffele three behind McIlroy.
The lead was down to two over Schauffele when McIlroy dropped two shots in a row but a clutch par putt from outside 10 feet stopped the rot on the 16th, cleaning up a monster two-putt from off the edge of the green after finding the fairway bunker from the tee.
The win was all but secure when McIlroy converted another big putt on the 17th, this one for birdie to go to three under for the round and give himself a three shot lead going on to the last.
McIlroy got up and down from the greenside bunker to birdie the 18th, a fitting finish to a stunning 2019 season.
"Any time he's playing that good, you know he's going to be tough to beat," said Koepka. "Congrats to him, that's awesome. He holed some putts down the stretch to close it out, that's what a champion does."
There will be fans worldwide echoing Koepka's praise, particularly after McIlroy's teary interview caught the sport's heart when he missed The Open cut by a single shot at Royal Portrush last month.
European fans will get another chance to see McIlroy in action this week as he tees it up at the European Masters in Switzerland.
Belfast Telegraph Digital